I'm Gonna Need To Talk To The Manager Of This Black History Month

We are halfway through Black History Month (BHM), and I feel like asking my white friends to lend me their Karen energy because I’d like to speak to the manager about a return.

I ordered this BHM as a celebration of Black contributions to the culture, arts, politics, and function of the United States and the North American continent. Instead, we’ve received the marginalization, erasure, and disrespect of those very same achievements. I’m not saying that we should get a bonus month to make up for it. But doesn’t it feel like somebody (white) should be fired for this?

At the lighter but most blatant end of the scale, let’s talk about the epic snub of Beyoncé for Artist of the Year at the Grammys. Winner Harry Styles topped off the shit sundae of this embarrassment with a cherry of oblivious self-regard when he said that “people like me” don’t usually receive these awards. Sir, you are a white cishetero man, and – all offense intended – you were three years old when Beyoncé signed her first recording deal. 

It was outrageous. It was demeaning. It was flagrantly offensive to ignore a masterpiece of an album that revived and modernized a musical style created and defined by marginalized people after a quarter-century career of absolute bangers every. single. time. 

It’s not just that I am a Beyoncé stan (though what else could any of us be). It’s the refusal to recognize how powerful, impactful, and incredible she is as an artist because she’s a Black woman buoyed first and foremost by Black women.

But, ok, that’s only culturally disrespectful. So Beyoncé doesn’t get a justly deserved award that implies she will never be good enough to win over the white establishment. She’s still selling out stadiums and taking our rent money and securing a meaningful legacy through her art. It’s not enough to throw the whole month away, surely? It’s not like Black history is being actively erased, right?

Oh, wait.

In Florida, weeping pustule and governor Ron DeSantis has effectively suppressed the teaching of Black history in his state via the hellacious Stop WOKE Act — with repercussions across the country.

In Florida, teachers are terrified to share even basic facts about the centuries’ long history of racial oppression in this country, whether it’s the basics of chattel slavery or the widely documented reality of segregation. But leaving the state’s children embarrassingly uneducated wasn’t enough for DeSantis, who coordinated with the College Board to eviscerate the proposed AP African-American History course that will be offered to students across the county. Gone are the Black queer theorists and thinkers; gone are the titans of racial self-reflection. Instead, I guess Black students can learn that their ancestors were happy and noble under oppressive regimes — if they’re even mentioned at all.

There is something deeply perverse in preventing Black speakers and scholars from telling our own stories in our own words during the time specifically set aside for that purpose. It is the only four weeks on the calendar when Black people are given permission to take up space in a society that usually demands our invisibility. That temporary presence in the discourse — on our terms, in our voices — has been instrumental in creating the progress that empowered Black people to fight for abolition, to endure the horrors of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, to stand up for our civil rights, and to reshape U.S. politics by being the driving force behind the first Black man to hold the presidency. Losing access to our moment to speak up and speak out isn’t just going to quash what Black people have already done, but what we still aspire to.

It’s here where I have to get into the heaviest and most heartbreaking event to mark this month: the funeral of Tyre Nichols.

The darkest parts of Black history – the fear, the uncertainty, the deprivation, the blatant and terrifying disregard of our humanity – is not history. It’s still happening.

As Tyre’s and other new names are added to the painful litany, the importance of Black History Month comes back into focus.  In gathering to memorialize Tyre Nichols – his hopes, his dreams, his kindness, his impact, and all of the people left behind – we are reminded that we still have work to do. And not just Black people. All of us still have work to do to ensure that Black people feel safe and cherished, loved and venerated, respected and free.

That is the Black History Month I asked for: one where we are doing the work of making this nation a better place for Black people — by extension, everyone else. 

So, to be clear, y’all have two weeks to fix this. And if you’re not sure where to begin the dismantling of centuries-old structural racism and pervasive, violent anti-Blackness…. Well, getting Renaissance World Tour tickets for your Black friends isn’t a bad start. (You can always find me @gothamgirlblue, to be clear.)

Kaitlin Byrd
Kaitlin Byrd
Knows too much, thinks even more. Has infinite space in her heart for tea and breakfast for dinner. Really from New York, so always ready to cut a bitch.